Thursday, September 25, 2008

3-2-1-0: Indo-US Nuclear Deal Enters Home Stretch


By Roger Alexander


After a lot of drama and suspense, Congressman Howard Berman, a strong opponent of certain provisions of the Indo-Us Nuclear Deal, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that is almost identical to the one that was overwhelmingly adopted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

However, his bill is said to have an extra paragraph that would require that the Senate and the House versions would have to be reconciled in a committee with the involvement of the administration as well, reports rediff.com.

 

Berman was also persuaded to drop killer amendments, including one on Iran that could have sabotaged the legislation following which he introduced the bill. He probably did so as the Hyde Act contains 17 references to Iran and directs India to have a foreign policy “congruent” to that of the US. That was why India voted twice against Iran in the IAEA.


(The Hyde Act requires an annual Presidential certification that India is in compliance with American law. And this so-called prescriptive clause is going to be a millstone around country’s neck for a long time to come.) 

As this blog reported yesterday (September 24) - ‘US Senate Committee Shafts India On Nuclear Deal’ - Berman provided considerable input into the Senate Committee’s legislation with his staffers and that Senate panel staffers worked in concert to craft a bill that could possibly be cloned in the House of Representatives for floor action. That has happened.


According to the rediff.com report, Berman's bill, though in all respects similar to the Senate Committee's Bill, contains an additional proviso that in the event of a nuclear test by India, which leads to the automatic termination of the deal, the presidential waiver of this termination could be limited. 


Under the Senate Committee's bill, as does many pieces of legislation dealing with such 123 Agreements and arms sales bills with America's allies, automatic termination of these agreements can be waived by the President on national security grounds and can be overridden by Congress only with a two-thirds majority.


Berman's Bill puts slightly more teeth into Congress with the presidential waiver having the authority for being overridden by the Congress with a simple majority and not two-thirds majority.


Now it is only a matter of time and procedure that the US Congress puts is imprimatur on the Indo-US 123 Agreement. It was being speculated that Congress might fail to endorse the 123 Agreement as House Committee on Foreign Relations chairman Howard L Berman, an alleged critic of the deal (even though he supported the passage of the Henry J Hyde Act) was refusing to play ball. But unlike in India, even the so-called maverick American politicians put the US' supreme national interest above personal preferences.

The Senate panel bill - the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act - though approved 19-2, forcefully stresses that “…nothing in the Agreement shall be construed to supersede the legal requirements of the Henry J Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006 or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.”


It also introduces a new element impinging on India's right to uninterrupted fuel supplies guaranteed by the 123 Agreement. In the approval legislation sent to the full Senate, the Committee makes it clear that “...it is the policy of the US to seek to prevent the transfer to India of nuclear equipment, materials, or technology from other participating governments in NSG or from any other source.”


This contingency would arise in the event nuclear transfers to India are suspended or terminated in the event of a test in pursuance of provisions of the US enabling law, the Hyde Act, the Atomic Energy Act or any other US law, it says.


Manmohan Singh and his minions have consistently trotted out the specious argument that India is only bound by the 123 Agreement and papered over the supposedly "extraneous provisions" in the Hyde Act, the US legislation that grants the US administration an exemption from the Atomic Energy Act to carry out nuclear trade with India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).


Another provision in the SCFR's recommendation sets limits on the nuclear fuel provided to India as part of promised fuel reserve saying "any nuclear power reactor fuel reserve provided to the government of India in safeguarded civilian nuclear facilities should be commensurate with reasonable reactor operating requirements.”


This is a far cry from Manmohan Singh’s assurance to Parliament on a number of occasions that India had obtained fuel supply guarantees for the lifetime of the reactors that would be purchased from the US and that India would have the right to build up a strategic reserve.


As usual, the Indian government’s spinmeisters are trotting out arguments that have already been discredited. "I am not going to comment on internal process in the US. We have the right to test and they have the right to react," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters in New York. The usual bluster – India has the right to test while others have the right to react – was once again the retort to pointed questions from the media.


Still, the US Congress is all set to pass the Indo-US 123 Agreement along with the attendant riders (maybe some more may be added by Representatives and Senators). But Manmohan Singh is all set to sign away India’s sovereign rights and shackle us permanently to the Hyde Act and its pernicious conditions, including India’s foreign policy being “congruent” to that of the US. He has indicated as much in the past few days.

ends


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